The Austin People’s Plan to Fight Displacement

On January 15, 2018 — Martin Luther King Day — I was privileged to help spearhead the unveiling of what has since become known as the Austin “People’s Plan” to fight displacement and to help mitigate gentrification.  We called ourselves the Austin Poor People’s Campaign and held our press conference at the Montopolis Negro School, an important site not only for its history of African-American public education, but also for its heritage of serving the Burditt’s Prairie Freedmen’s Community in other ways.  The fight to preserve the school site and the destroyed location of the former St. Edward’s Baptist Church also cast a disturbing light onto the shocking and cleverly camouflaged history of first class institutional racism in Austin.  Take a look at some of my previous blog posts to learn more about that.

The video above describes the basics of what is contained in the People’s Plan.  If you would like to download a copy of our press release you can do so here.

As I stated at our press conference, the plan we developed is a bottom-up and sensible proposal to initiate a more honest approach toward slowing down gentrification in Austin overall, not just in East Austin.  Each resolution was carefully crafted by a dedicated, distinguished and experienced group of diverse Austinites and was designed to be Targeted, Simple and Actionable–TSA for short.  We spoke to dozens of community leaders, planners, colleagues and friends in other cities in Texas and across the United States to learn what works there and what might work in Austin.  Perhaps most importantly, for once it was East Austinites, most of whom have to live on the frontlines of gentrification and in danger of displacement themselves, who were in the leadership in addressing this issue.  This matters because as the Austin City Auditor revealed in January 2018, city leaders between 2000 and 2017 issued 541 recommendations and resolutions related to displacement and gentrification, most of them ignored or otherwise not fully implemented.
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The People’s Plan has been endorsed by Austin’s Zoning and Platting Commission, and was also endorsed by the Mayor’s Anti-Displacement Task Force at its April 6, 2018 meeting.  Because it reflects the consensus opinion of the people most affected by gentrification, it should form the basis of any future anti-gentrification or anti-displacement strategy adopted by Austin’s city council in the future.  You can download a copy of each one of the six resolutions here.

In my testimony at the Anti-Displacement Task Force, I pointed out that the People’s Plan is not a radical proposal.  By the time of his assassination Martin Luther King, Jr. had transitioned toward democratic socialism and supported measures such as a guaranteed minimum national income and the provision of housing by right.  As the effort to reinvigorate Dr. King’s aborted 1967-68 dream continues, expect our coalition to continue its work of producing and pushing community based vs. community placed proposals forward.  Because the “triple evils” Dr. King spoke about–racism, militarism, and poverty–are still regrettably very much with us 50 years later.